Witchcraft

Raising Power (and Then What?)

The whole moon hexing-thing seems to have opened up a whole can of worms, hasn’t it?

It seems like most witchy spaces have kind of gotten past the collective initial reaction to it, but it continues to raise a lot of interesting questions — some thought-provoking, some annoying and gatekeepy.

One discussion I came across involved the validity of using the internet as a magical learning tool. Sure, there’s a lot of very “Well, in MY day” attitudes about it among older witches and Pagans, but there are some valid criticisms to levy. The internet has democratized the spread of information, but that goes hand-in-hand with the spread of misinformation (as anyone currently dealing with relatives who believe COVID-19 is a hoax can attest). Granted, a lot of books on the subject are no better. I can’t recall the title, but I vividly remember reading one passage about an Irish potato goddess that someone not only wrote, but someone else published and other people bought. Misinformation still spread, just more slowly.

From this sprouted a discussion about the validity of online spells, and the preponderance of people looking for magic as a kind of quick fix. “Ceremonial” magic gets derided, while simple candle and jar spells pop up and get passed around everywhere. The only problem there is that the “ceremonial” stuff is often not ceremonial it all — it’s the power-raising and the meat of what makes the magic happen. Candle and jar spells are completely valid and workable, but there’s more the thing than putting herbs in a jar and hoping for the best.

This, in turn, hosted a conversation about power raising. One person was completely unconcerned about online spells — they could never work to begin with, because the instructions didn’t include anything about raising power “properly.” Why, one person asked, would you send your energy into your materials?
That, in particular, got me thinking: What does proper power raising and releasing even look like?

Before I even came to witchcraft, I was familiar with raising power — not as a practice, but as a feeling. I picked up on the bright, effervescent thrill that went through me when I was dancing, or when the song I was listening to hit that crescendo that was just perfect, and I could feel the build and release of energy. It wasn’t going anywhere in particular, but it was happening.

As I learned, I was taught the basic circle casting, power-raising, releasing toward your goal construction of a spell. While that’s a perfectly workable means of spellcasting, it’s also not the only way to do it “right.”

Like anything else in magic, it depends on the intention. I don’t mean the intent of the spell, I mean your intention to cast it in the first place. Your intent might be to get a new job, but your intention is to use a candle/jar/sigil/whatever spell to get a new job. That determines what your spellcasting looks like, even down to the release of power. Not every situation calls for a “cast a circle, raise power, release it toward your goal” strategy.

Candle spells are nice because they’re a simple, accessible type of sympathetic magic. You want something to happen as the candle burns. Maybe you want to reverse a hex, so you use a two-color candle and watch the black wax neutralize whatever the other color is. Maybe you want to feel better, so your fatigue decreases as the wax is consumed. Maybe you want to attract a lover, so their heart warms as the flame grows and burns. Versatile!

That also means that the candle is a way of releasing that power. You light the wick, the flame consumes the wax, it releases it as the products of combustion — heat, light, soot, and water vapor. Sending your intention and energy into the candle allows it to be burned when the time is right, or as needed — you raise and release power once, direct it into the sympathetic vessel, and let the element of fire do the rest. You could raise and release power toward your intent, but, at that point, the candle is strictly ambiance.

Jar spells are nice because they’re long-lasting. You fill a container with symbols of your intent, and put it somewhere to work. Maybe you want to keep a happy and stable home, so you fill it with peaceful ingredients and bury it in your back yard. Maybe you want to attract a new lover, so you fill it with rosebuds and bury it near your front door. Maybe you work with someone who really sucks, so you fill it with nails, hot pepper, and stolen pieces of hair and ditch it by a railroad crossing. In this case, much like the candle, the spell isn’t necessarily helped or hurt by a one-time release of energy toward a goal.

Sigils are their own thing entirely. They hopscotch back and forth over the line between magic and psychology as a matter of course, so they’re not going to follow the rules for raising and releasing power. That doesn’t mean that they don’t work, though.

Servitors are interesting energetic constructs, but that means that your energy should be directed toward making them. You don’t really need a circle for it — you’re going to give the energy its own shape, anyway. If you can’t keep it from getting away from you without a magical container, you’re probably going to have trouble with that second part as it is.

Knot magic is another time-release kind of spell. It’s a form of sympathetic magic where the tying or untying of knots contains and releases energy as needed. If you aren’t putting your energy into the knot-tying itself, then the action of untying the string doesn’t actually release anything.

Does this mean that energy raising and releasing have no real rules, and any online spell will work? Well… No.

The common thread of all of the types of spells I mentioned above is that the materials and actions in the spell have a reason for being there. The spell jar’s a magic battery. The knotted string is a string of magical firecrackers. The candle is a way of holding energy until the flame releases it. There are definitely some spells out there that are unfocused, at best.

For example, say you want to draw in a new lover. You fill a pretty dish with rosebuds, lavender, and jasmine flowers, add a drop of love-drawing oil, and send your energy and intent into the dish. You feel that the herbs have absorbed all of the energy they can, so the spell is over and you dispose of the remnants.

And then what? Where does the energy go? How does it get to its goal? You could burn the herbs and release it with the element of fire, fire’s related to warmth and passion. You could even scatter them in a moving body of water, water’s related to the emotions. But, unless the spell tells a novice witch to do that, are they going to?

I like online spell resources because they’re good for ideas. You can usually tell which have a chance of working (and which don’t stand a brine shrimp’s chance in a photon tube) by asking a pretty simple question for each ingredient and instruction: Why is this here?

Most will tell you to meditate or visualize. These are ways of raising mental and magical energy, but not the only ones. You can dance, sing, or ride a twelve-speed vibrator the size of a Thermos until your eyes bug out, and it’ll work just as well as long as you keep your goal in mind.

They might not give you an effective way to direct or release this energy. Don’t get me wrong, you can do way worse for yourself than holding a bunch of lavender flowers and meditating on something that would bring you joy, but that probably isn’t going to bring you much closer to your goal.

At each step, ask why. At each ingredient, ask why. Not only will it let you know if you’re wasting your time, it’ll make it easier to write your own spells or make substitutions when necessary.

life, Witchcraft

You don’t need to worry about the moon.

Today, in Things I Never Thought I’d Have to Type:

Just in case you came across this Twitter thread yesterday — the moon is going to be fine. A minor internet kerfluffle ensued when some kids got the bright idea to hex the moon (?) and the fair folk (??) for… Reasons, I guess.

Everyone who gets into a hobby — whether it’s pottery, baking, or witchcraft — has a moment or two when they develop starry-eyed aspirations of punching way above their weight. For some people, that means trying to tat an entire lace tablecloth by hand. For others, I guess it’s trying to curse the moon. But, much like ending up with a pile of tangled thread instead of heirloom-quality table linens only really hurts the crafter, trying to hex the moon or the fae only really hurts the caster. The only real difference between the two is that a finished tablecloth would have been beautiful and served a purpose.

Kids have been doing asinine things since the beginning of time. When I was four, I ate an icicle that was hanging off of the muffler of my grandma’s car and became violently ill. When I was ten, I ate a plate of dog food to prove a point (the point was that chicken alfredo is gross, don’t @ me). My adorable baby cousin once spent twenty minutes enthusiastically smashing sliced peaches into his hair. This probably isn’t the first — or even most impressive — time someone’s tried to pull something like this. The moon will be fine. Moon deities will be fine. They’ve survived the destruction of their temples and imagery, the forced conversion of their believers, and actual people walking around and leaving trash on the moon. They survived Theodosius the Great and the Donation of Constantine. This is kind of adorable by comparison.

(It’s also what happens when you dive headlong into spellwork without learning enough about history or theory, but that’s another subject.)

space egg

Admittedly, energy might be a little weird for a bit. Not to get too deep in the weeds, but, during some vision work I performed before finding out about all this, I experienced what I can only describe as an energetic whirlpool. I tried to feel it, but it slipped right over my hands like oil on water. I asked what it was and what it was for, and was told that it wasn’t my problem and not to worry about it. I went on my way. I didn’t know what it meant at the time, and, to be frank, didn’t feel like it was useful or important to delve into something that had been expressly described as Not My Problem. In retrospect, it makes sense.

I don’t think these witches should be bound or otherwise disciplined by more experienced heads. I think they’ll get what’s coming to them well enough, either through the backlash of their own work, or the humbling realization that the whole situation is more cringey and hilarious than anything else.

As for the fae, maybe leave some honey or milk out in your garden. Wear some gold. Carry some cold iron. The fae are temperamental at best, and this definitely isn’t a situation where I’d recommend going the “fuck around and find out” route.

life, Witchcraft

Cleansing Your Space After an Illness

By now, your home has probably had some sick people in it. Even if you’ve been fortunate (or diligent) enough to avoid COVID-19, the pandemic has triggered a spike in people using telemedicine — which means that they’re avoiding healthcare offices and handling more things at home.

Even in homes that haven’t seen illness, the vibes might be getting kind of weird by now. Being in close proximity to other people, no matter how much you love them, can result in more arguments, more tiny annoyances, just more of everything. (Absence may not always make the heart grow fonder, but it can certainly do a lot for sanity now and then.)

Cleansing is intended to recalibrate the energy of a space. Without getting too Witchcraft 101, it’s a good idea to do it where there have been arguments, nightmares, annoying guests, or anything that just makes a room feel a little “off.” It makes sense that you’d want to energetically cleanse a place where people have experienced sickness or physical or emotional pain. Odds are, you’re going to be giving the whole room a regular disinfecting anyhow, so why not combine the two?

In many folk magic traditions, magic and housework go hand-in-hand. As cleaning protects the home from filth and sickness, magic protects from spiritual ills. Hoodoo, in particular, has a strong tradition of using floor washes for bringing good in and shooing evil out. In nature, the cycles of weather and the seasons keep things moving. Fresh energy is brought in, the old is re-integrated. This isn’t something that can take place indoors, where it’s sealed-up, soilless, dry, and climate controlled all year!

Open Up

Cleansing a space gets things moving. That’s why it’s important to allow as much of the outdoors in as you can. Open windows and doors, bring in the wind and the sun. Much like grounding allows us to recalibrate our own energy fields, this lets the energy stirred up by the process to re-integrate into the world outside.

Perform a Physical Clearing

Vacuum carpets. Sweep floors. Change linens (preferably for a set that’s been aired in the sunlight). Wash curtains. Air out bedding. Anything that can be physically cleaned, should be. Pay particular attention to areas that don’t see much action, like the corners of rooms. These spaces allow things — both physically and energetically — to accumulate.

Do a Double-Duty Cleansing

Many of the ingredients that are used for energetic cleansing are also useful for sickrooms.

Floor cleaners with pine oil purify spaces and ward off evil, while having some antimicrobial activity. (Unfortunately, Pine-Sol no longer contains pine oil.)

Lemon is also used for energetic cleansing, while the citral and linool in lemon oil have some bacteria-inhibiting and antiviral action.

Fresh herbs.

Vinegar is sometimes used for energetic cleansing, by leaving a dish in an empty room to evaporate. When prepared as an appropriate dilution, vinegar also inhibits candida, e. coli, and staph.

Some herbs, like white sage, are antimicrobial when burned. If you don’t use white sage, bay leaf has also shown some similar effects.

These measures will shift the most resistant energy patterns and restore the flow.

It’s important to note that these ingredients are all aromatic. That means that they might be too strong to be tolerated by someone with a respiratory condition or sensitivity to smells. Air everything out well afterward. Even if the smell is dissipated, the cleansing action is still there.

It’s also important to note that, if you’re dealing with a serious pathogen like the novel coronavirus, you should disinfect using a cleaner approved by the EPA for that specific purpose. Not every cleaner, herb, or oil is effective against every pathogen out there. If you know what bacteria, fungus, or virus you’re dealing with, make sure you knock it out first with a good disinfecting agent. You can clear the vibes afterward.

Bring in the New

Next, it’s important to bring in the kind of vibrations you want to have around. You can place crystals that correspond to the kind of energy you want to bring in (or the kind of illness you’re working on healing), but it should be noted that a lot of crystals come with energy you may not want. If you’re in doubt, find a piece of Arkansas quartz or a Herkimer diamond harvested by the seller. Arkansas and Herkimer county are home to some beautiful, powerful clear quartz crystals — you can ask for their assistance, inform them of your intent, and they’ll work just as well.

You may also want to sprinkle cleansing salt in the corners of the room. Plain sea salt is fine here, but you can create your own cleansing salt by combining it with your preferred herbs. Eucalyptus leaves, lavender buds, and dried lemon zest with some coarse sea salt all work well for this purpose.

Playing music helps, too. Music and sound have a powerful effect on our mental — and even physical — states. The frequency of a cat’s purr helps speed the healing of bones, muscles, and connective tissue. In one study, 528hz was found to lower biomarkers for stress. Even if you can’t replicate exact frequencies, your favorite music can have a strong impact on a room’s energetic imprint.

As a chronically ill person, I’ve found that I’m especially sensitive to when things start to go a little bit “off.” Even if you don’t have the energy to do all of the things on this list, doing just a few (opening a window, playing music, getting rid of some clutter) can help improve the feel of a place.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Filtering, Storing, and Using Magical Oils

So, we’ve got our herbs infusing, our mixtures are empowered, and everything’s been sitting for however long we need it to — maybe a week, maybe two, maybe an entire moon cycle.

Next, we’ve got to filter them, figure out where and how to keep them, and use them.

Filtering the Oils

Filtering the oils takes the solid plant matter out of them, leaving just the clear oil behind. Naturally, how effective that is depends on what filter media you use. Filters with larger mesh, like cheesecloth, will let your oils filter much more quickly, but will allow some small particles to pass through. Finer filters, like coffee filters, filter very slowly and produce a clearer oil.

Really, the choice of filter medium is up to you. If you’re not worried about having floaty bits in your oil, pick a coarser filter. If you’ve got time to kill and want a clear oil, pick a finer one.

I usually set up the filter in an empty jar, and hold it in place with a rubber band. You’ll want to avoid stretching the filter too tightly across the top — it should dip in the middle, to properly hold the oil and herbs without spilling. Think of it like a coffee filter.

I give the jar of herbs and oil one last good shake to wake it up and keep the herbs from staying in a thick layer on the bottom. After a few minutes to allow it to settle, I begin pouring the oil into the filter. Depending on the size of your filter and jar, you may be able to pour the entire batch of oil out at once. Otherwise, pour a bit, wait for it to filter through, then pour some more.

You can wring the remnants of oil out of the herbs you’re left with, or not. The choice is up to you. The remaining oily herbs can be incorporated into salves, or simply composted.

At this point, I usually add any essential oils I’m working with. They are aromatic compounds, so they lose potency with time, heat, and light. I find that adding them at the end of the process helps them stay stronger, longer — especially if I’m using warmth or sunlight to aid the infusion process.

Storing Magical Oil

You might want to keep your oils in sunlight for vibrational purposes, but, as I mentioned previously, light and heat degrade many of the compounds in oil. Your best bet is to store them the way you’d store any essential or cooking oil — in a cool, dark area. (Especially if you’re using an oil with a shelf life of a few months, versus a few years.)

Colored bottles help preserve oil by blocking ultraviolet light:

  • Amber glass provides the best protection against UV and visible light.
  • Cobalt blue protects against visible light, but not UV.
  • Green glass protects against visible light, but not UV.
  • Clear glass doesn’t protect against UV or visible light.

In short, amber glass is the best option for storing large batches of oil. If you want to use clear glass for aesthetic reasons, only use it for small bottles that will be used up fairly quickly. If you don’t have much choice in what kind of bottle you use, opt for the largest wrap-around label you can. An opaque label will block out UV and visible light.

Preserving Oils

Even if you have a carrier oil with a long shelf life, some degradation can happen. Worry not; there are two ways you can help protect the integrity of your oils, without negatively impacting their magical properties.

Have you ever heard any say that rosemary can be substituted for any herb in a spell? Not everyone agrees with this, but rosemary does have an impressively long and varied list of properties. It’s a good thing, too, because it can help preserve your oil. Rosemary oil is a natural antioxidant, and you only need about .2-.5% to help keep a mixture fresh. (It smells really good, too.)

Fresh herbs.

If rosemary really won’t suit the mixture of herbs you’re working with, you can go with vitamin E oil. Either get the liquid form, or pop open a couple of vitamin E capsules from the drug store. Vitamin E is another antioxidant, and it won’t harm the scent or consistency of your oils.

As with anything else, avoid these if you have an allergy.

Using Your Oils

How you use your oil depends on which ingredients you chose. Virtually any oil can be used to dress a candle, sachet, or poppet, as an offering, or what have you, but not everything is suitable for anointing. Some essential oils, like lemongrass, can be sensitizing. Citrus has a reputation for phototoxicity — definitely don’t use it before going out in the sun!

If you plan to add essential oils to an oil for anointing, be mindful of your dilution. Most guides for oil dilution assume that the end product is a massage oil, lotion, or other body care product, so they tend to be a bit conservative — you definitely want a pretty low level of essential oils if you’re planning on regularly applying something to your entire body! For oils intended for anointing, which is generally done rarely and sparingly, a perfume dilution is fine. Body care formulations typically stay around 2% or less, while perfume may be as high as 5%. Mountain Rose Herbs has a very helpful dilution calculator that can help you make sure your blends aren’t too strong.

That’s it! While buying your magical supplies is definitely helpful in a pinch, nothing really compares to making your own. With some time and quality ingredients, you can create magical oils that are effective, powerful, and personalized for your needs.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Making and Empowering Magical Oils

Making oils is a process.

I don’t mean choosing the right ingredients and carriers — that’s just the midpoint.

Oils aren’t a very large part of Druid ritual, but I still find them useful. The action of making them is as meditative as it is fascinating, and I like having a convenient, versatile way to tap into the energies of a blend of herbs. Carrying a vial of oil in my crane bag is much easier than carrying packets of herbs, and a single drop can go a very long way.

Every time I make an oil, powder, incense, or anything, I start with a statement of intent. What do I want this mixture to do? I might start with a specific situation that I want to affect, or something more general. Whatever my intent might be, I need to distill it down to one sentence — one central idea — before I can continue.

Then the real fun begins.

Choosing the Herbs and Essential Oils

Picking the herbs and oils to form the base of your magical oil means choosing them based on one of two things: their history of use, or your personal association with that plant.

Personal associations can be extremely powerful, because they’re based on your working relationship with them. Making magical recipes based solely on your personal associations can be a bit like “reinventing the wheel,” however, since it involves a lot of experimentation if you aren’t relying on information that generations of witches and wise-people have already worked out.

On the other hand, adhering strictly to a plant’s documented magical properties has its own drawbacks: it can be kind of limiting, and things are often lost in translation. (There are posts upon posts of hoodoo practitioners lamenting the loss of traditional recipes after some dubious authors published their own versions.) You might also miss information on how the herb was historically used — one plant might traditionally be a money herb when infused in an oil or added to a powder, but treated as an unhexing herb when burned. There’s a lot of knowledge that can’t really be properly presented in chart or encyclopedia form!

The number of herbs, oils, and other additives can also be significant. Most magical recipes I know involve at least three ingredients, but more isn’t always better.

You should also note any toxic or sensitizing effects the herbs and oils might have, even if you don’t plan to ingest or anoint your skin with them. Some plant compounds can be absorbed through the skin, and many can have deleterious effects if they’re used long-term. The more often you plan to use an oil, the more important safety is. Even if you only use it to dress candles, you’ll be getting it on your hands. Be safe!

However you decide to choose your herbs and oils, select a few that correspond to your statement of intent, and won’t be toxic or sensitizing.

Choosing a Carrier

No matter whether you want to infuse herbs or blend essential oils, you need a carrier. This is going to be the “body” of your oil — the stuff that absorbs the magical virtues of your herbs, and provides a safe vehicle for your essential oils.

The only real limiting factors here are allergies, shelf life, and price. Needless to say, if you’re allergic to a plant, don’t use its oil. Very highly-refined oils generally have any allergenic proteins removed from them, but that’s not something you should bank on if you have severe allergies.

Shelf life can be a consideration if you plan to let your oil infuse for a long time, or if you know it’ll take you awhile to use up. Keeping oils in dark cobalt or amber bottles in a cool, dry area can help prolong their shelf lives, but they will still eventually oxidize and go rancid. I like jojoba oil for its very long shelf life. As a liquid wax, it can stay stable for up to two years.

Some oil-bearing plants have their own magical properties. (Fractionated coconut oil, for example, is great for protection spells.) This is good to bear in mind, though you’re likely to find yourself choosing oils based on other characteristics. If the smell of your carrier oil completely overpowers your other ingredients, you might not care what else it can do!

Picking the Date

When you’ve got your ingredients together, the next hurdle is choosing the date and time to begin. The most simple part of this is choosing the correct moon phase to work within. Is your recipe to help attract something (love drawing or prosperity recipes, for example), or get rid of something (unhexing formulas)? If it’s to attract, I choose to work within a waxing moon. If it’s to banish, the waning moon.

The moon also passes through signs of the zodiac. Though I don’t stress over it if it isn’t possible, I try to match this to the intent of my oil.

Every day also has its own planetary association, and planetary hours within that. If you choose to follow this system, your best best is to use an online planetary hours calculator to help you figure out the right timing in your location.

Sun rising over mountains.

It’s a lot, isn’t it?

As an example, let’s say I was setting up an oil to help turn a court case in my favor. I want to attract the favor of the judge and jury, so I’d choose a waxing moon to begin. Libra is associated with court cases and justice, so I might decide to either start on a waxing moon in Libra, decant the oil on a Libra full moon, or both. (Of course, it might be infusing for awhile if you do that!) Wednesday is ruled by Mercury, which governs communication and the law, while Sunday is ruled by the Sun, and governs success, so either would be sufficient for my needs. Lastly, I’d pick a Mercury- or Sun-ruled hour during the day (preferably between sunrise and noon, as the sun is rising to its high point), and set everything up during that hour.

In the end, I’d get a court case oil created when the moon is waxing, on a Mercury-ruled hour on Wednesday.

Empowering the Mixture

You’re in the right hour, of the right day, in the right moon phase. You’ve got your ingredients, a container, and a carrier oil.

Now what?

It isn’t enough to put ingredients in a jar, add an oil, shake it up, and hope for the best. You can definitely get an oil infusion this way, but it won’t be as powerful or focused as it could be.

When I add ingredients to the container, I tell them what I want them to do. I speak their names, give them instructions, then add them. After each one, I repeat all of the herbs I’ve added so far. It might sound something like this:

“Red rose petals, draw passionate love to me.” Add red rose petals.
“Pink rose petals, draw romantic love to me.” Add pink rose petals.
“Red rose petals, draw passionate love to me. Pink rose petals, draw romantic love to me.” Swirl the ingredients together.
“Jasmine flowers, draw lustful love to me.” Add jasmine flowers.
“Red rose petals, draw passionate love to me. Pink rose petals, draw romantic love to me. Jasmine flowers, draw lustful love to me.” Swirl the ingredients together.

(It starts sounding very “Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly” by the end, trust me.)

The carrier oil goes last, then the lid. I give the jar a good shake as I visualize the end result — succeeding at whatever it is I want the oil to do. I hold my hands over the container, filling it with my personal power.

I can generally feel when there’s “enough,” but there are also ways to tell if you aren’t sensitive to energy play. You might use a pendulum, ask your tarot deck for a “yes/no” response, or even just ask the jar itself. Hold your hands an inch or so from the sides, and ask that your hands be pushed apart if it’s sufficiently empowered. There is no wrong way.

Leave it Alone (Sort of)

Now, you just have to put your oil in a place where it’ll be safe and easy to keep an eye on. You’ll want to agitate it regularly by shaking (or stirring, if your vessel doesn’t have a lid). I like to speak to the jars as I handle them, reminding the sleeping herbs of their purpose in the mixture.

I might leave an oil to infuse for a moon cycle or more. (One particular recipe can go for an entire year.) I usually try to leave them for at least a month, though the exact length of time is usually dictated by astrology, seasons, or which High Days are approaching.

Next week, I’ll go into filtering, storing, and using the oils we’ve made!

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
life, Neodruidry, Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Herbs for Justice, Protection, and Invisibility

If you’re taking part in the June 5th spiritual protest or any other justice-related spellwork, you might be wondering what materials you should reach for. Traditional hoodoo resources are a great source for this — the generations of the Black community’s mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement is made painfully evident when you look at the number of oils, powders, and roots that help with court cases and legal trouble.

If you don’t have access to traditional rootwork resources, though, that’s okay. There are plenty of other plants you can go to, especially if your spiritual and magical path hails from a different part of the world. Since this is somewhat short notice and COVID-19 is still affecting business closures, here are some herbs I thought would be a) effective, and b) easy-to-find, even if you don’t have them already. Some, you might be able to find by the side of the road. Others, you might have in your kitchen already.

Amaranth

Amaranth is used for protection and invisibility — help journalists and protesters avoid violence. It’s an ancient grain, so, if you have a sensitivity to wheat, you may already have some to cook with.

Buckthorn

Buckthorn is useful for protection and legal trouble. Alder-lead buckthorn grows across the U.S., Carolina buckthorn can be found in the east, and California, cascara, and hollyleaf buckthorn grows in the west. Common and glossy buckthorn also occur in the U.S. as invasive species — get your magical ingredients and curb the invasion, all in one shot.

Celandine

Celandine is protective and helps with legal matters. It helps win the good will of a jury, and is used to avoid unjust imprisonment. Lesser celandine is an invasive species in the U.S., especially in the east and northwest, and is sometimes known as “fig buttercup.”

Mugwort

Mugwort is used for protection and healing. It keeps away evil, protecting the target from dark forces. When carried, it helps ensure that loved ones return home safely. Mugwort grows as a weed everywhere but the plains states in the U.S. You can find it on waste ground, roadsides, by train tracks, and in fallow fields.

Oregano

Chances are, you’ve got some of this common spice in your kitchen. Grab a shaker of it, a piece of charcoal, and a fireproof dish, and burn the leaves. As you do this, pray for justice. Your intent will be carried on the smoke.

You can also add oregano to spells for protection — useful for aiding the protesters and oppressed communities.

Rosemary

Rosemary is my favorite protective plant. It’s also an easy-to-find culinary herb — if you don’t have rosemary itself, you might have “poultry seasoning” (which probably has sea salt, garlic, and other protective goodies in it).

Vervain

Vervain is a very powerful sacred herb. It empowers anything it’s added to, and is used for protection, peace, healing, sending negativity back, and more. This is common vervain, not the U.S. native blue vervain, but both are part of Verbena. Blue vervain grows wild in disturbed areas.

Woad

Woad is often used for ancestor work, particularly by those of Celtic extraction. It’s also used for banishing and spiritual protection. As far as I’m aware, the Celtic peoples didn’t really give a flying fornication about ethnicity or bloodline purity or what have you, so, if using it speaks to you, go wild.

Woad isn’t particularly easy to find, but it’s a favorite for battle magic.

Yarrow

Yarrow helps instill courage. You can find it all across the U.S., in gardens, forests, and grasslands alike, growing along roadsides and hiking trails.

This is a very short, basic list based on my own experience and research. (For a more in-depth treatment of war witchcraft, there’s a great article on Zindoki.com.) Most of these herbs are pretty easy to find, you might even be able to harvest some from untended land near your home. Just remember — take no more than 30% of the plant, and always ask permission and leave an offering.

The injustice suffered by some of us, hurt all of us.
Work your magic by the moon. Kick some ass.

divination, life, Witchcraft

And then she said my partner used to be my grandma.

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A couple of months ago, I came across an Etsy listing that piqued my curiosity: Couple Past Life Reading.

“Welp,” I thought, “This is going to go some interesting places.”

I don’t usually do past life-type stuff. It isn’t that I don’t think past lives are possible, it’s just not really relevant to how I live my life right now. I have also noticed a — shall we say — type that tends to be kind of way too into the idea. (For some reason, this kind of person also was, without fail, Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, or Morgan le Fay in a past life. You’d be amazed at how much dead royalty’s walking around.) Still, for less than a twenty, I was down to find out what my partner and I were up to a lifetime or so ago.

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This picture came up when I was looking for royalty-free pictures related to past lives. I’m not sure what’s up with these fish, but enjoy.

Now that COVID-19’s made it much tougher for a lot of people to earn a living, I figured it was also a good time to promote an inexpensive way to help someone keep a roof over their head, while getting some entertainment and insight and not having to worry about shipping.

So I sent a few pictures of my partner and myself to Rossana, and sat back to wait. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before she delivered. The report she gave was long and detailed, so I’m just going to hit the high notes:

We lived in the 18th century. He was my mother’s mother, and was afflicted with blindness after sustaining an injury while saving her son from a fall off of a horse. I read books to her and acted as her eyes — which was particularly interesting to me, since my partner drives and does other things I can’t do because of my vision loss.

He, as my grandmother, worked helping runaway teenagers, unwed mothers, and political dissidents. I never married, but I had two daughters and worked as a folk healer using herbs and the laying on of hands. I was also part of a secret society that helped women escape domestic abuse and gave them new lives and identities. My daughters’ father didn’t feature prominently in my life — he fled to Spain and eventually died. I lived a long time, and died at an old age.

Neat stuff, huh? I laughed when I found out that my partner was my grandma — no star-crossed romantic entanglement there! I did like that we were ordinary people, it made things much more interesting than finding out we were Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. I also didn’t tell Rossana anything about our relationship, so finding out that I was his “eyes” in a past life (much as he is mine in this one) was pretty cool.

Did this change my perception of past life work? Not really, though it did stir up some curiosity in me. Rossana has a wide variety of other reasonably-priced readings available (including pendulum, runes, and Lenormand cards) so I’m definitely going to return to her in the future.

 

 

 

 

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Turmeric Folklore and Magical Uses

Turmeric is what gives curry a yellow color (as well as everything else it touches). It has a subtly spicy, earthy scent and flavor, and, to be honest, is next to impossible to find folklore or magical uses for.

It’s not that they don’t exist, of course. It’s just that they’re kind of drowned out by the number of blog posts, articles, and books on its nearly-magical health benefits. People use it for inflammation, diabetes, cardiovascular health, and to improve liver function. It’s a bit outside of the scope of this post to go into all of that — besides, I’m not a doctor — but it’s pretty evident that turmeric occupies an important place for a lot of people around the world.

Turmeric is native to southern Asia and some Pacific islands. In the places where it grows wild, it has a history of use as a medicinal herb going back about 4000 years. Interestingly, though turmeric was known in ancient Greece, it never really caught on except as a dye. (Interestingly, ginger, turmeric’s cousin, didn’t seem to have this problem.) Needless to say, if you’re looking for uses of turmeric in European-based witchcraft, they’re a little thin on the ground.

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Turmeric Magical Uses and Folklore

Nobody seems to be able to agree on what elemental correspondences go with this herb. Some say air, while one source I found said fire. While fire makes sense to me, I would probably say earth.

In India, turmeric seems to function as a sacred anointment. It’s used for brides and grooms during the pre-wedding haldi ceremony, girls entering puberty, and the bodies of the dead. Most of the sources for witchcraft uses of turmeric cite purification as one of its properties, so, while I doubt that its associations in Indian culture are exactly the same, this makes a lot of sense.

Malevolent spirits, particularly the angry dead, can be sent away with the smell of turmeric.

Turmeric is also indicated for spells for healing, strength, and vitality — since it’s a potent medicinal herb and general tonic.

Turmeric’s golden color is useful in color magic. Yellow is associated with abundance and happiness, while gold is associated with the energy of the sun, prosperity, success, and healing. (This sun energy might be an explanation for why turmeric is so useful for purification!)

Using Turmeric

Since turmeric stains pretty much everything it touches, that makes it great for making magical inks, dying sachets, bags, or poppets, or adding color to sweetening jars or other potions.

Turmeric essential oil has a very warming scent, and can be substituted for hot spices when you don’t necessarily want their sharp pepperiness. Like the root itself, though, the essential oil stains — use it with caution!

If you can keep it out of humidity, you can use turmeric to bury magical tools to purify them the way you might use sea salt. Again, be careful — don’t use it to bury anything porous, and keep it dry, or you might find that whatever you buried is now yellow.

 

I love turmeric, and I put it in everything. While I haven’t experienced the magical health benefits a lot of natural health websites attribute to it, it’s delicious, easy to use, and gives everything such a bright, pleasing color. If you’re looking for an ingredient for magical ink for a prosperity, abundance, joy, or purification spell, you can’t really go wrong with turmeric.

divination, life

Getting closer, card by card.

Learning Lenormand divination has been immensely practical, especially now. It’s a lot more tangible than tarot — where tarot deals with emotions and energies, Lenormand cards deal with actions and circumstances. Both tarot and Lenormand readings give you a glimpse of the situation as it stands now, if nothing were to change, but having both at my disposal has been very helpful.

I’ve been doing small, two-card daily Lenormand readings for myself. Every day, I ask the same question: What can I do right now to bring me closer to the life that I want?

And I get an answer: Write something, deal with unresolved relationships, make something, focus my energy and attention on a specific area.

It’s nice.

Sometimes, it’s funny — since the readings are very straightforward and practical, the advice isn’t always profound. For example, for this week’s reading, I asked what I should focus on for the week to get me closer to my ideal life.

I drew the Tower and the Anchor. The Tower can represent authority, in a governmental sense. It can be the company you work for (or, in my case, my self-employment). It can be protection and isolation. The Anchor can be achieving your goals — as in, dropping anchor once you’ve reached your destination. It can be stability, or settling down. Most sources interpret this combination as a safe harbor, long-term protection, or a stable isolation.

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This image showed up when I was looking for a public domain image of a tower. Not gonna lie, social distancing would be a lot more fun there, I think.

In other words, “You want to know what you should do to achieve your goals? Really? Maybe stay home and don’t die first, nerd.” 

Which… Okay, I get that. The world isn’t likely to be substantially different over the course of the next week. Safe harbors and isolation it is.

I asked my copy of the Crow Tarot deck the same question. In response, I drew The Heirophant.

The Heirophant is a religious leader. He’s an authority. He is tradition, convention, conformity, and a mentor in The Way Things Have Always Been Done. In a spiritual sense, he is ritual, routine, and ceremony. When he shows up, it’s often a sign not to rock the boat — if you want to succeed, it’s time to listen to people who have gone before you. Reinventing the wheel won’t get you any closer to your goal.

Taken together, I should stay home and take this opportunity to study and build more routine into my day. Structure and good advice will bring me closer to the life I aspire to, now’s not the time to take chances.
I agree.

 

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Dogwood Folklore and Magical Uses

I love dogwood blossoms, I think they’re my favorite non-flower flower. Even the wood and foliage of some species is absolutely breathtaking to look at — there’s nothing quite like a bloody dogwood in the snow.

Depending on where you are, dogwoods are either blooming, starting to bloom, or have been blooming for a few weeks. Since I’m missing the dogwoods at the National Arboretum so much, I figured this would be a good week to look at the folk and magical applications of Cornus wood, leaves, berries, and flowers.

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Dogwood Magical Uses and Folklore

As a native American tree (eastern U.S. and Mexico), there’s not a lot of writing on flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) as it pertains to European-based witchcraft. Southern Europe does have a plant called the Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas), which is in the dogwood family, and most of Europe and western Asia has the common dogwood (Cornus sanguinea). C. mas and C. sanguinea both flower, but neither of these are quite as showy as the big white or pink blooms of C. florida. Since all of these plants are related, it’s possible, even preferable, to make substitutions depending on what species are locally available to you.

Dogwood is associated with loyalty, secrets, wishes, protection, fertility, desire, and illusion. (The illusion part, in particular, makes a lot of sense — the flowers of the flowering dogwood aren’t actually flowers at all, they’re modified leaves.)

The dogwood is strongly tied with Christian mythology, since the flowers form a cross shape. It was believed that the wood was used to form crosses for crucifixion, so Jesus prevented the dogwood from ever growing large enough to be used for this purpose again.

An old folk remedy for treating mange in dogs involved making a decoction of dogwood bark, and washing the affected areas with it.

Leaves, bark, or flowers can be used as a protective charm.

As an herb of secrecy, it’s a good idea to include some dogwood leaves in a diary, grimoire, or Book of Shadows. An oil made from the flowers can be used to dress a letter and keep prying eyes off of it.

Make a wish come true by catching a drop of dogwood sap on a cloth on the evening of Midsummer, and wishing on it. Carry it until you get your desire, then bury the cloth.

It’s bad luck to bring dogwood flowers into your home, or to burn the wood in your hearth.

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Using Dogwood

One theory for the etymology of “dogwood” is that the name stems from “dag,” from which we also get “dagger.” This is related to the straightness and density of the wood — the sticks are pretty much ideal for crafting shafts for tools or weapons (Ötzi was found with dogwood arrows), and the wood is dense enough to sink in water. In a practical sense, this makes dogwood an excellent material for crafting wands or other magical tools.

A lot of dogwood’s associations fit neatly into one another. Illusion, protection, and secrecy all blend well. I probably wouldn’t use dogwood in place of, for example, cayenne pepper as a protective herb because the energy is so different. Dogwood is subtler — it protects by concealment. It’s a smokescreen, not a fiery wall. Even its use as arrow shafts points to a plant that’s best used to take advantage of the shadows!

American flowering dogwood has four bracts. From a numerological standpoint, four is strength, stability, and pragmatism. This blends nicely with its use as an herb for protection and loyalty.

Dogwood is useful in color magic, since the blooms can range from white, to yellow, to pink, to red. Even the leaves can turn from gold or green to pink, yellow, orange, or red.